In 1997, organizers from around Ohio began to discuss the need for a broader, statewide approach to their organizing efforts. Their own organizations were not adequate to effect wide-ranging systemic change. The January 1998 report, Community Organizing in Ohio: A Need for Networking Assistance and Support, found that only 7% of community-based organizations were involved in some kind of community organizing with a state or national organizing network. The vast majority were working in isolation with limited access to information, resources and skills they needed to organize more effectively. In response to overwhelming interest, the organizations and institutions that had collaborated to initiate the survey decided to establish Organize! Ohio.
Organize! Ohio began in 1998 with leadership and assistance from the Grassroots Leadership Development Program of Lorain, Ohio, which provided organizational support and served as its fiscal agent. In November 2001, Organize! Ohio received its federal 501 (C) (3) status.